Collins runs down his Top 10 fantasy hockey stories of the 2015-16 NHL campaign
The start of the NHL playoffs is almost like Jan. 1 for hockey pool enthusiasts. It's a chance to gear up for a new year while taking stock of last season. Looking back at the past seven months, many of the top hockey stories of the year had a negligible impact on fantasy (at least…so far). Some of those stories include Jonathan Drouin's suspension, Steven Stamkos about to become an unrestricted free agent, no Canadian teams in the playoffs, 3-on-3 overtime and the coaches challenge.
But there were still plenty of issues that did impact you and your fantasy league. And some of those will impact your league for years to come. Here are the top 10 fantasy stories from the past season.
10. Fighting still declining
The most recent stats tell us this year had the fewest fights since 1973-74, and fights-per-game was the lowest since 1967-68. This is having a major impact on the fantasy relevance of some players. Not one player managed to get 200 PIM this year (Derek Dorsett led the way with 177), the first time that's happened in a non-lockout season since 1967-68. PIM are already declining in fantasy league use. The Dobber Experts pool doesn't use it as a stat and many others are shifting the same way, causing players such as David Backes and Milan Lucic to lose value.
9. Rave reviews for rookies
This was the best rookie class in years. Artemi Panarin was the first rookie to net 75-plus points since Evgeni Malkin and Paul Stastny hit that mark in 2006-07. Connor McDavid missed half a season due to injury but still wound up with 48 points in 45 games. Shayne Gostisbehere had a 15-game point streak. Eight rookies had 40 points, the highest total since 2010-11.
8. Greybeards still got it
Older players often get overlooked in fantasy drafts. The potential of someone getting 60 points for the first time is more attractive than the guy getting to the same mark for the 12th time. That's why you see young 'uns such as Jack Eichel drafted ahead of Joe Thornton. Maybe that makes sense in keeper leagues, but not in one-year pools. Eleven of the top 35 point producers this season are at least 30 years old. Don't discount the older players until they prove they are washed up.
7. Erik Karlsson's scoring prowess
Karlsson is to offense what Alexander Ovechkin is to goal scoring. There's just no other equal in the NHL right now. Karlsson's 82 points is the first time in 20 years a defenseman has hit the 80-point mark. He's hit 70 points in three of the last five seasons. And what's scary is that he is rarely injured as he's now played in every game of the last three seasons.
6. Alexander Ovechkin's goal-scoring dominance
Ovechkin is simply the best goal-scorer of this generation and arguably the best all-time. This year was the seventh time he's potted 50 goals in a season. Only three other players managed to even get to 40. Let's put it another way. Since Ovechkin's NHL debut in 2005-06, a player has scored 50 goals on 20 occasions. Ovi has seven of those occasions and no one else has done it more than twice.
5. The Oilers continuing misery
I'm in a fairly deep 30-team league where I own both Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby and goalies are extremely valuable. I was shopping Lundqvist last summer and offered him to a fellow GM as part of a deal for Taylor Hall as the GM was starting the season with the goaltending trio of Michael Hutchinson, Al Montoya and Justin Peters. But the GM was reluctant to trade Hall. "Hall is probably going to get close to 100 points this year playing with McDavid," he told me. It's those lofty expectations that seem to keep crashing down every season that puts the Oilers on this list. Every year is supposed to be the season the Oilers break out but never do. Hall led the Oilers with 65 points and was one of only two players to even hit 50 points.
It wasn't a banner year for goalies. Many were injured and numerous others disappointed. The usual studs faltered. There were no late season heroics from a backup netminder. It was just a blah season for goalies overall. Thank goodness for Holtby. He tied a single season record for most wins in a season with 48. And of course there was the streak. Holtby did not lose a game in regulation from Nov. 12 to Jan. 14, when he picked up 20 wins in 23 games and had an amazing 1.85 GAA and a .939 save percentage.
3. The firing of Mike Johnston/hiring of Mike Sullivan
Fantasy owners of Penguins players were breathing a huge sigh of relief when Johnston was replaced with Sullivan on Dec. 12. It was especially great for Sidney Crosby owners. Crosby played 52 games once Sullivan took over. Crosby has 66 points, eight game-winning goals and a plus-26, all best in the NHL in that stretch.
2. Carey Price's injury
The injury to Price cost many poolies their championships. The reigning Hart trophy winner had a 7-2-0 record, a 2.01 GAA, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts in October. Then he got hurt for a few weeks and played just three more games the rest of the season. It was extra frustrating because reports were so vague. There was talk he would be back by Christmas, then the all-star break, then the trade deadline, and then maybe by the end of the season.
1. Patrick Kane
This almost seemed like a story lifted from the pages of the WWE. A champion undergoes a disgrace, fans turn on said champion, who then goes on a crazy vengeance tour to prove all doubters wrong. The sexual assault allegation last year loomed over Kane, with some fantasy GMs worried about using a high pick on the Blackhawk. Kane then proceeded to go on a 26-game point streak and ran away with the Art Ross trophy. Kane finished in the top three in goals, assists, points, power play goals, power play points and game-winning goals and was fifth in shots.
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